F6, all 400 square feet of it, will be our first home for three months of field work. F6 is located here, on the southeast shore of Lake Fryxell, in the Taylor Valley, about 50 miles west of McMurdo Station, Antarctica. We will also occupy other, more luxurious, properties in the Valley. More about that later.
We are C-506, aka the Stream Team, aka The Asgard Rangers. Charlie-five-zero-six is part of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research Program (MCM LTER), which, for more than twenty years, has been studying the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the Valleys, the largest ice-free area on the Antarctic Continent. The scientific rationale for studying the Dry Valleys, which besides being dry are extremely cold and windy, is nicely set out on the MCM LTER web site: “The dry valleys represent a region where life approaches its environmental limits…” C-506 is funded by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Diane McKnight, an engineer, limnologist, hydrologist and ecologist, is the principal investigator, universally referred to as the PI.
The Stream Team measures streamflow (and water quality; more details to follow). Water (with all its magic) is very likely the most effective medium on our planet for transporting energy and matter, and transport of both is central to much of the ecological research that goes on in the Valleys. (Physical limnologists and glaciologists also use Stream Team measurements to close their water, energy and solids budgets.) You can see Stream Team data here. (Much of the water entering the Taylor Valley originates in the Asgard Range, hence the alias.)
On a personal level, the Stream Team consist of Jess Ebert, an engineer and graduate student; Mikey Johnson, also an engineer, and a river guide in California, Idaho and in the Grand Canyon; and me, yet another engineer, currently in a state of professional resignation. We arrived at F6 this past Monday, nearly simultaneously with roughly a thousand pounds of cargo that included personal and science equipment, and what was nominally a two-week supply of food. (We shopped when we were hungry, so we feel well-provisioned for two weeks. More on the food will be forthcoming.)
How we got to F6 will have to wait—if I were to succumb to my linear instincts, you would not arrive at here for weeks, So, for now, just enjoy a few photos of our home and its surroundings.